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(Government) Cheaters Always Win!

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01/21/2011

A year ago I highlighted an excellent rant by Deadspin’s Tommy Craggs in response to Sports Illustrated‘s unabashed cheerleading for the drug war — at least when it was extended to athletes. Now, SI and Craggs are at it again. The dying pillar of “respectable” sports journalism is now running propaganda for the federal government in its quest to put as many famous athletes in jail as possible. Craggs isn’t taking that lying down:

Maybe you’ve heard about Sports Illustrated‘s exciting new Lance Armstrong feature. At bottom, it’s a story about a corrupt man who gets away with cheating because the people who’d ordinarily police it have decided to look the other way.

Which is to say, it’s a story about Jeff Novitzky, federal drug warrior.

[ . . . ]

If you’re unfamiliar with Novitzky, he is the former IRS agent who didn’t exactly cover himself in glory the last time around but who is nevertheless heading up the FDA’s investigation into Armstrong. He has behaved far more atrociously than any cyclist poking himself with a needle, and he has done it with the implicit and explicit encouragement of a media that should be bird-dogging his every move. In another life, Novitzky would’ve been digging through Dalton Trumbo’s garbage. In this one, he has walked all over the best parts of the Bill of Rights in a flagrantly illegal raid of a drug testing facility and then very likely leaked the famous names harvested in that raid to certain eager reporters, which is also flagrantly illegal. This isn’t just about cheating in sports. There are real stakes. Thanks to Novitzky, and thanks to the Ninth Circuit cannibalizing itself, and thanks in no small part to the worst instincts of the Obama Administration, we’re now well on our way to an Information Age precedent governing plain-view searches that pretends there’s no difference between a dime bag on the kitchen table and the easily sorted cells of a spreadsheet. Madison wept.

You can reasonably argue that Armstrong’s cheating is an important story, especially given the fierceness of his denials and all that Nike-sponsored self-martyrdom over the years. I can understand the logic, even if I don’t agree. But why aren’t Novitzky’s crimes — which, you know, actually matter in real life — just as big of a deal? Why are sportswriters not only ignoring his cheating but essentially consecrating it under large headlines? If it wasn’t obvious already, the War on PEDs is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the War on Drugs, and this one is likewise being covered by a captive media writing the same kind of stories featuring the same kind of Joe Fridays and the same kind of selective righteousness. Novitzky is running an old con on a grand scale, and Sports Illustrated and The New York Times and many, many others have willingly become the publicity arm of an operation that’s more deeply crooked than Barry Bonds or Lance Armstrong ever were.

Speaking truth to power. What a novel concept.

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